Stormwater compromise

    After hiring a lobbyist, and wrangling with the Philadelphia Water Department for a nearly a year, members of a local business group say they’ve won a compromise that could hold down rising water bills.

    Philadelphia manages stormwater runoff to prevent sewer backups–and then charges local businesses to recover city costs.

    The city now considers more than a company’s water use. Bills for nonresidential properties reflect a company’s footprint and the percentage of hard, impermeable surfaces on a property

    Stuart Parmet says the fight began for him in February 2010, when his company’s water bill jumped to $1,000, up from about $300 a month.

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    “I think the water company gets it now that it was ridiculous,” Parmet said. “I think at first it took a lot of pressure for them to understand that, although they were trying to go green, the initial hardship that they were putting on businesses. It was an oversight for them, and they couldn’t see it.”

    Parmet says his company, American Box & Recycling, is just one of hundreds facing huge bills.

    Joanne Dahme, a spokeswoman for the water department, says the proposal is a temporary fix for the hardest hit business owners.

    “The proposed program will put a cap on their increase at 10 percent of what they are paying this year,” she said. “Eligible customers will be those customers who will see their monthly bill go up over $100 per month.”

    A decision on new water rates is due next year. Parmet says several business owners now serve on a customer advisory committee that will make recommendations for the next fee schedule.

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